Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Cycling the Huascaran Circuit Peru

It was a little hard leaving the Luxuries of Huaraz... we really had fallen in love with the Andino Cafe there... amazing food and real coffee!!!  Emma also had begun feeling Richard`s headcold so we delayed our departure by a day.

The Huascaran circuit crosses the spine of the Cordilliera twice, at Punta Olimpica (4890m) and Portachuelo de Llanganuco (4710m), pases cut through rocky ridges in the 1980`s, for roads which soar high among glaciers and are towered by the Blancas largest peaks.  We couldn`t wait!
 Quinoa along the way

Day 1

We had a cruisy morning and enjoyed scrambled eggs and coffee (not from Andino today but home made) before farewelling our fellow cyclists at Jo`s Place and getting on our bikes. It had been about 2 weeks since we`d ridden them!  Debbie also bought a drink bottle full of freshly orange juice, squeezed by a little lady on the side of the road.  She cut and squeezed them onsite - delicious... and very good for Emmas throat.
We had a relatively easy start to the day with a 30km downhill to Carhuaz but from there the climb began.  It was great not having to deal with any altitude (we were down in the 2000m`s) but it was very hot.  We enjoyed the climb up to the National Park Entrance.  Small villages, friendly people... and a whole lot of Peach trees - yum.
Due to our late departure, we arrived at the Park Entrance at 5:30pm and decided to camp here instead of pushing onto the described `freedom camp`in our book.  The men were very friendly and we felt safe, despite being in sight of the road.

Day 2

Emma didn`t sleep well and woke to very runny eyes and nose and felt terrible.  We left anyway but at the base of the switchbacks...
and we mean serious switchbacks, we decided (after some time) to stay another night to recover.  It was our shortest day riding yet - just 7km... but a very good and sensible descision.

We had great company at our campsite
Near the evening, Debbie spotted two cyclists pull up on the other side of the river.  She went and chatted to them and we hoped we we would see more of them the following day too.  A couple from Barcelona.

 Getting up to the toilet at night is always incredible with the amazing stars!
Our Curious neighbours even wanted to clean our dishes!

Day 3

Emma woke up feeling a lot better and we packed up and prepared to tackle the switchbacks.  We left just before our Spanish neighbours and were about two switchbacks ahead of them until we all had lunch together at the tunnel.
 The valley we rode up the first day

 Looking down at the switchbacks we rode up

At the tunnel cyclists can enjoy getting off the main road (not that it is busy at all though) and ride up the unpaved old road to the actual pass.  It is no longer passable by car but well worth the effort of riding it.

 Debbie riding through the pass - 4890m

... and down the rocky switchbacks, back to the main road

 After rejoining the main, tarsealed road we flew down the switchbacks and arrived in the very cute town of Chacas.  It is rich in Italian history and character. It has a huge cathedral and it even had a pizzaria (although closed the night we were there).  We met 3 other cyclists travelling together from France, Columbia and America.  They were doing the circuit in the opposite direction.

 Our Spanish friends Ricard and Alba had to return to Huaraz by bus due to a major bike mechanical.  We were a bit sad to lose our newly found buddies but wished them well.

We set off for Yanama, taking the old higher and less busy road via Wicrococha.  It was a warm day and we rode in shorts and tshirt all day.  We climb Pupush pass at 4070m and enjoyed lunch by the river where we also did some washing.  We rode for 8 hours but only covered 50km.  Hills and gravel do that to you!

 The old and the new - Churches in Lluichush


 Bulls ploughing the fields

We found a nice hostel for 30soles and had dinner for 5 soles.  We watched, what must have been the entire town`s children march. They went around the block about 4 times while we were watching... but we could hear the band continue to play on for over 2 more hours so who knows how many more laps they had to do.

Day 4

We woke to the Cordillera Blanca in full view from our hotel balcony. We set off early for Cebollapampa campsite.
Again we had an amazing day with friendly people and spectacular views.  Quiet gravel roads again took us over the Portachuelo de Llanganuco pass at 4710m.

 Our lunch spot - it was perfect timing as several tourist vans passed by as we rested here.  The starting point of the Santa Cruz Trek was just around the corner.
 We passed by a series of lakes before reaching the pass
 Woo hoo, the pass 4710m

 It was a long climb up bumpy gravel roads so we were stoked to be at the top.  And who wouldn`t be excited with those switchbacks descending into the valley below!!!

 We turned off the main road and rode some single track down into the Cebollapampa campsite.

 What a day!  We love camping, and our camp dinners.
It was a windy campsite but we were the only ones there and it was so peaceful.

We decided today that it is truely incredible how much difference friendly people make to your day.  It doesn´t matter how amazing the scenery is, if the people are rude, it spoils everything.  We are so happy to be in a valley where, not only is the scenery amazing, but the people are incredibly friendly too.  Happy campers.
Other than the Huayuash trek, this is the first time we have felt completly relaxed and happy in Peru.

Day 5 (pm)

We left our campsite about 2pm after spending the day walking the Laguna 69 circuit (separate blog)

Laguna Llanganuco
We enjoyed the 30 odd km`s of bone rattleing descent into Yungay where we joined the main road to Caraz.
We were quite glad to get back onto tarseal after the very rocky dusty road but sad to be leaving the quietness of the mountains.  We had a headwind into Caraz but it was a downhill ride of  only 16km.

We found a hostel and tried to get some sleep as the hours of replays, of the Peru vs Boliva Soccer game, blasted from the communal TV outside our room.

As we left Caraz we were intrigued by the Peruvian women standing in huge queues outside the bank and the pharmacy.  We assumed it was their dole day and they had prescriptions to fill.

Canyon del Pato
33 Tunnels

it is absolutely incredible that a road even exists here - huge steep gullies and sheer cliffs.

 After the Oasis of Hualanca and the Hydroelectrica, the road turned dirty, dusty and shite (said in an Irish accent)
 Mud bricks drying in the sun - one of the many we have seen along the way!
We wet our tops at most rivers to keep us cool in the intense heat

 We were planning to stop at Yuracmaca but arrived before midday... and decided it was a pretty grotty place to stay anyway.
We rode on passed hundreds of mango trees but unfortunatley they were still green

Apart from Two!!!  We found on the ground under a tree. Oh Yummy

Just after here we met two French cyclists coming the other way.  They told us there were two Spanish cyclists about 30kms away and we immediately thought of Ricard and Alba.  Lets just say, we spent the rest of the day following their tyre marks and trying to track them down.

 We thought all hope was lost as night was approaching and our map said we still had another 20km until the town of Chuquicaca... but... we rounded a corner and saw tarseal and knew the town was there too.  We found them at the end of a town in a dodgy looking accommodation.  They had been expecting us, as a motorist had told them there were two Chicas cyclist following them!

We enjoyed a nice evening with them and dinner out.  We hope to see them in NZ sometime too!

We went our separate ways from Chuquicaca as we were heading to the coast and they were staying in the mountains.
We rode about 8km out of town to the second bridge and found the private Brazillian mining road that cyclists are allowed to ride on.

 What an incredible contrast to the mountains we had been in just days ago.  It was hot dry and dusty.

We travelled for 50km on this private mining road before we were spat out onto the busy panamerican highway!  Arrgh, so busy... but luckily for us, a lot of the way there was a brand new, unopened road running beside it!

 Sugar cane from a passing truck that was stuck in a traffic jam due to roadworks.  The roadworkers gave it to us. Nom nom

We made it all the way to Trujillo by about 5pm. We had ridden about 150km that day thanks to the fast panamerican highway.  But there is no way we would like to travel on that everyday!

We managed to navigate our way through the bussling city to the Casa de Ciclista.  Unfortunately there were no other cyclists there but it was nonetheless nice to have somewhere to relax.

 Plaza de Armes
 Trujillo is a very nice city with cute little streets and beautiful old buildings

We spent the next day sight seeing and visited Chan Chan - an ancient city

Then it was Bye Bye Peru
We caught the night bus with Cruz del Sur to Guayaquil -Ecuador.  
18hours of relaxation!